Building the Future Workforce

A few weeks ago, the U.S. Department of Labor made a major announcement that could have a significant impact on the future of the U.S. manufacturing workforce. Like many truly important developments, it didn’t get the kind of attention it should have in this town. If it succeeds, this step forward could be an important building block in making for a stronger manufacturing base.

On May 22, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced the creation of new set of resources called the Industry-Based Competency Model that will serve as standards for training the manufacturing workforce. Click on the blue link above to read more about it. Assistant Secretary Emily Stover DeRocco said, “in a global economy, American workers need strong academic, workplace and technical skills to maintain our competitive edge. The tools released today allow industry, educators, and government to match their investments to the modern needs of the advanced manufacturing workplace.”

Ms. DeRocco has it exactly right. The new standards do not replace industry-specific standards, but instead focus on core competencies that the manufacturing workforce needs, regardless of the sector in which they work. Integral to the model, for example, are integrity, personal motivation and technical skills such as working with spreadsheets, interpreting CAD (computer-aided design) and navigating databases. Smaller companies that do not have extensive human resource departments will find this resource particularly helpful.

The Manufacturing Institute and the National Association of Manufacturers applauded this step forward. NAM president John Engler: “The NAM is proud to have played a key role in developing this ground-breaking framework of core competencies critical for today’s high-performance manufacturing worker. The framework provides a long overdue snapshot of what the 21st century manufacturing technical worker looks like. We will take a leadership role to promote this new model of industry-wide skill requirements with our member companies, affiliated associations and educators and work with industry partners to keep it current as the skill requirements of manufacturers change.”

Phyllis Eisen, VP at the Manufacturing Institute, noted that “the U.S. education system is not aligned with most of the business community and is not teaching the kind of skills that are needed for advanced manufacturing to stay competitive. We will work hard to get this skills framework into every high school, community and technical college so that curricula can better reflect the skill sets needed for today’s advanced manufacturing employee.”

NAM and the institute helped develop this model and will continue to work with DOL going forward to keep this workplace tool updated and relevant to the more than 14 million men and women who work in manufacturing today. For more information, contact Phyllis Eisen at The Manufacturing Institute at